Yesterday, the Cleveland professional baseball franchise announced that they’ll be removing the“Chief Wahoo” logo from their uniforms next year. It comes after decades of complaints that the image, a grinning, red-faced, bulb-nosed, horse-toothed caricature is racist.
The image is clearly racist.
Last year, Rob Manfred, the Commissioner of Baseball, began pressuring Cleveland chairman Larry Dolan to give up the logo, which has been alive in some form since 1948. (Earlier, if you consider the old newspaper cartoons of an actual Native American player named Sockalexis.) In a statement provided to The New York Times, yesterday, Manfred said that Dolan “ultimately agreed with my position that the logo is no longer appropriate for on-field use in Major League Baseball, and I appreciate Mr. Dolan’s acknowledgment that removing it from the on-field uniform by the start of the 2019 season is the right course.”
Although there are millions of dollar at stake whenever a rebranding effort happens, it’s not just about the money. Part of the attachment to names like the “Indians” and caricatures like Chief Wahoo, is embedded in American culture and a twisted sentimentality that continues to this day.
Think about the Washington “Redskins,” a team that uses what many believe to be an n-word level racial slur in its name. (Even Cleveland’s Larry Dolan has said that if the Cleveland team had been called Redskins,” he would have changed the name the day after he owned the team.)
According to C. Richard King, a Washington State University professor who teaches and writes about race, gender and indigenous issues, “That the team would have settled on the name unselfconsciously underscores how deep the entitlement and attachment to all things ‘Indian’ were at the time, and how deeply embedded anti-Indian racism was in American public culture.”
His most recent book, Redskins: Insult and Brand, an unflinching look at the history and impact of the Washington team’s controversial name, helps to explain why otherwise nice people insist that Indian motifs are well intended and symbolic of good things – like pride, competition, and excellence.
But besides the decades of activism and complaints, King cites numerous studies, including one by the American Psychological Association, that say turning indigenous people into cartoonish stereotypes does them lasting harm. “Clearly, whatever the intention, mascots hurt, underscoring the deep impacts of anti-Indian racism as well as the history and power anchoring it,” he says.
In other words, Indian names and symbols are now understood to be hurtful to others.
The mascot may not be going away entirely. The Cleveland team will not relinquish the Chief Wahoo trademark, which will prevent it being adopted and misused by others, but will also allow them to continue to sell merchandise bearing the logo at their stadium and in Northeast Ohio if they choose.
But they can make a different choice.
It would be nice if Chief Wahoo was moved to a permanent home in a museum, where his role in history could be properly understood. And it would be a smart move for the franchise to lose the name, while they’re at it. It’s a tough conversation, but long overdue. When entertainment franchises stop willfully hurting people, everyone wins.
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|American University has announced a new “Plan for Inclusive Excellence”|
|The plan is based on surveys and meetings with over 1,000 staff, faculty, students and alumni, and aims to better address bias in general, but also the specific concerns of students and faculty of color. “As a community, we have been challenged to confront incidents of racism, discrimination, inequity, bias, and threats of violence,” says the announcement. “In 2017, after the university began making promising, but insufficient progress to address these issues, we experienced even more egregious acts of hate and bias.” They’ve posted their complete plan, with goals, timeline and impacts, and it’s all worth your time. Also worth noting, the great Ibram X. Kendi’s Antiracist Research Policy Center is slated to open this year.|
|Air Force removes a technical sergeant from duty after a racist Facebook rant|
|Racists keep ranting on social media, and they keep getting in trouble. Tech. Sgt. Geraldine Lovely of the 99th Force Support Squadron at Nellis filmed herself, while in uniform, in a profanity-laced racist tirade which she then posted to a secret Nellis airmen Facebook group. “It pisses me the [expletive] off that they [black female airmen] have no [expletive] respect and constantly having an attitude,” Lovely began. The video was shared on an unofficial page and went viral from there. “Leadership are exploring disciplinary actions and are checking to see if this is a broader issue on the base,” said a spokesperson. So many teachable moments.|
|Air Force Times|
|What happened when a National Geographic photo editor was investigated for harassment|
|Nothing, and that was the problem. Patrick Witty had an influential job at the beloved magazine known for its arresting visual images. When several women asked Nat Geo’s human resources department to investigate longstanding claims of sexual misconduct last fall – allegations which included freelance talent and industry peers –there was some sort of investigation, but no announcement. Witty quietly left. But women are continuing to speak out, shaking off earlier fears of backlash, and looking to root out the systems that let an alleged predator operate with impunity. What if he does it again somewhere else? “It’s just disappointing that everyone in the office knows why he’s gone and they haven’t addressed it yet, not even to the young women there,” one producer told Vox.|
|Jamaica bans an anti-LGBTQ pastor in a sign of progress|
|Leslie Mac, co-creator of Safety Pin Box and equality advocate, recently shared important breaking news on her always lively feed: Jamaica has denied entry to a Holocaust-denying Arizona pastor who has called for gay people to be stoned to death, her feed asked a question. When asked about Jamaica’s alleged “culture of homophobia,” she then dropped some knowledge, chiefly, that “homophobia is rooted in [British] colonialism & is a direct byproduct of missionary work on the island as well,” dating all the way back to Henry VIII’s English Buggery Act of 1533, which made sodomy a capital offense. (Writer Shanna Collins has a fascinating, analysis of anti-queer violence in Jamaica here.) She then shared a series of links to the work being done to remedy the past, which helped frame the decision to ban the Arizona pastor as part of a positive trend. “So to recap – before you – especially Americans – get on your soapbox to rail against homophobia in Jamaica. Know that people are working hard to create change – support them,” she says.|
The Woke Leader
|A sociologist explains the rise of hate activity during the Trump era|
|Hate group membership is no longer growing at an alarming rate, but that’s not necessarily good news, says David Cunningham, a sociology professor at Washington University in St. Louis.“My research shows that hate groups tend to grow in response to threats emerging from environments where social groups perceive their standing to be uncertain or at risk,” said Cunningham, which would explain the rise in membership during the Obama-era. But Trump’s rhetoric has minimized their existential threat, but spurred them into public view. “Hate incidents, in contrast, are most likely to rise primarily in response to expanding opportunities to act,” spurred on by a belief that during the Trump era, it is less risky to act on racist feelings.|
|The good old days of working class anger|
|New York Magazine has dug deep into the archives of 1969 and republished a devastating read by the legendary Pete Hamill on the plight of the people formerly known as the working class: The white lower middle class, “the ethnics, the blue-collar types,” who have been pushed to the point of desperation. Come for the sepia-toned language of race and class, stay for the realization that what vexes the people at Trump rallies and the aforementioned hate groups is nothing new.|
|New York Magazine|
|What is death?|
|This is a wrenching but important story that manages to hit some big themes with real grace. At the heart of the matter is the McMath family, whose daughter Jahi entered some form of vegetative state after a routine procedure went badly wrong. Part of the story is one of brain-death and the definition of life. But the other part, which is expertly acknowledged, is the experience of black patients and families in a largely white and often insensitive health care system. It is impossible to know if Jahi’s condition is a result of a racist system, but it’s also impossible for her desperate parents not to wonder. We’re always wondering.|